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Alpharetta students visit departing space shuttle Discovery | News

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Alpharetta students visit departing space shuttle Discovery
Alpharetta students visit departing space shuttle Discovery

ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Two north Atlanta students enjoyed a rare chance to go inside NASA's Kennedy Space Center to visit space shuttle Discovery prior to her retirement at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

The historic shuttle - which completed 39 space flights - sat inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building at the space center prior to being moved to the runway this week where a NASA Boeing 747 awaits to carry the orbiter piggyback up to Washington, D.C. on April 17.

Midway Elementary students Emily and Aaron took a special bus to the secured area last Friday to witness Discovery at her home of 29 years for the final time.

"It was amazing seeing her upclose like that in the VAB," Emily exclaimed with a big grin. "She was beautiful."

Her brother Aaron just smiled and said simply, "It was cool."

Discovery will depart America's Space Coast this Tuesday at about 7:00 a.m. to begin her three hour piggy back flight along the beaches of Cape Canaveral and then up to D.C. for a low level approach over several of the nation's capital's landmarks before landing.

NASA's oldest space orbiter will switch places with recent resident shuttle Enterprise at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center outside the D.C. beltway in Virginia.

Enterprise was used by NASA in the 1970's and 1980's as a test model for the future shuttle's and never flew into space.

Emily, who wore her Midway school shirt during her visit, discussed that they were able to visit with the shuttle for nearly twenty minutes inside the very same building where the massive Saturn 5 moon rockets were built forty years earlier.

"I know of the strong history about where we saw Discovery, and how I hope to keep those images in my mind forever," Emily added.

The pair had witnessed Discovery lift-off from Kennedy two years earlier on her next to final flight, STS-131.

Discovery's storied past includes missions to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope; the first American female space flight pilot; satellite deployments and retrievals and construction of the International Space Station. The orbiter has a combined flight time of exactly one year in space.

NASA said this week that Discovery has traveled 148.2 million miles since her first flight in 1984.

NASA TV will air live coverage of Discovery's final departure from Kennedy Space Center's three mile long runway beginning Tuesday morning at 6:45 a.m.


(Charles Atkeison covers science & technology which impacts Georgia for NBC Atlanta's 11Alive.com. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)


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